STORIES

by Antoine Bargel

To Be Eaten

"To be eaten by us is a great honor," the young man explained in nearly perfect French, while his father and other family members looked on, intently conveying that his words were the apt representation of their collective sentiment. "It means that having met you here, and learned about your ways during the time that you spent in our midst, we value what you are to the extent that our utmost desire is to assimilate those qualities into the very core of our tribe. Eating you is, passed down by our traditions, the ideal manner to achieve that, as it leaves nothing to escape the mysterious process of integration.

"We trust that you will not poison us. We know that you could, but you have shown us that your heart is pure. We trust that there is no better use of your worldly form, since the gods have decided that our paths should cross, and we so thirst for your blessings. We all will share the meal, men, women, and children alike, so that your strength and spirit will be multiplied more than twentyfold, and passed down to our future generations. We have prepared a fragrant broth, with all the herbs and spices that we know, and while you cook we will sing and dance to celebrate such a joyous event.

"I can sense your objection", he added, one hand raised, darting a look sideways to signal that his going off script was not cause to worry, "and we have considered your point of view also. As I have learned, and I tried to explain this to my family, despite the concepts being wildly alien to our mode of thinking, the people of your tribe entertain the notion that they own an individual right to deciding their fate." At this, he could not repress a faint smile. "Surely, this seems quite fantastic to us, as it would, I believe, to any observer of nature, but since we cannot separate who you are and the ideas, fictional or otherwise, that may or may not have contributed to the development of your divine being, we endeavored to reconcile them with our intentions.

"It would follow, if your desire was to preserve your physical form for another purpose of your choosing, that you would have remained in, or elsewise sought, the safest place for you, presumably within your family house, or one of these lordly castles that you have described. Instead, you have ventured extremely far, further than any of your tribe had ever done, and entered our forest, keen to encounter us and learn our customs, as you have consistently indicated since the day of your arrival. Evidently (and even if you had not conceived of it yet, you will certainly recognize it as true when pointed out to you), this meant that you had no better use of yourself, where you are from, than to travel to an unknown, remote part of the world and let yourself be transformed by whatever you found there, while you transformed it also with your presence. Of this, we are offering the most complete realization, welcoming and abetting your project with our combined and open hearts.

"Accordingly, we trust that by shedding this instinctual reluctance which I can still read in your eyes, you will fulfill absolutely your destiny, such as it must now plainly appear to you. Moreover, as this is also the moment in one's life when, having attained all possible meaning, existence exhausts its purpose and must discontinue, to be eaten by us appears equally, and beautifully symmetrically I might add, beneficial to you as we trust it will be to us.

"Therefore, come, my new and foreign friend", he said, an open hand now extended, shifting sideways to include all present, "and let us disrobe you, and honor you with all our love."